A look inside their fabulous life and partnership




Toronto Star



WHEN ELTON JOHN WAS ASKED recently about his biggest inspiration, he instantly said it was his husband, Toronto- born filmmaker David Furnish. That's no surprise. Furnish, now his manager, has been an integral part of John's career since the two first met at a 1993 house party in London. Clearly, Furnish understands the Elton John brand better than anyone. That's probably why the musician has been so vocal about wanting to spend quality family time with his husband and children after the conclusion of his ongoing Farewell Yellow Brick Road world tour. In 2015, Furnish became the CEO of Rocket Entertainment, the umbrella company he set up to lead all the management companies and smaller businesses that have accumulated around the British pop superstar over the decades. Since then, he's been instrumental in all of John's projects, including films, concert tours and music. As for the new song “After All,” from his new album of collaborations The Lockdown Sessions, well, you can “blame” that on L.A.-based singer and songwriter Charlie Puth. John has maintained a dominant presence on the pop charts for six decades and swears he wasn't considering recording another album (this is his 32nd) until he received an offer from Puth – known for the hits such as “Marvin Gaye,” “Attention” and “How Long” – to write in his recording studio. “I had no plans to make any music at all, during lockdown,” John, 74, admitted recently. “But I met Charlie Puth in a restaurant in Los Angeles. I'd never met him before. He actually lived only four doors away from me in L.A., and he said, ‘I have a studio, if you feel like coming out and writing something.' So I did.” The resulting song, “After All,” set off a domino effect: suddenly John found himself immersed in various star-studded collaborations, 16 of which made the final cut. The Lockdown Sessions includes artists from Miley Cyrus to Yo-Yo Ma to Lil Nas X to Stevie Wonder…and the list goes on. When you think about it, it's really no surprise that so many stellar talents are chomping at the bit to experience some of John's magic: 400 million albums sold, more than 5,000 arena-andstadium-filling performances. His current Farewell Yellow Brick Road World Tour, which commenced in 2018 and has been paused due to the pandemic and recent hip surgery, will have played seven sold-out dates – with close to 165,000 people in attending in Toronto alone – by the time it ends in 2023. To top it off, he's written some of the most enduring pop and rock songs of the 20th and 21st centuries: “Your Song,” “Candle In The Wind,” “Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me,” “I'm Still Standing,” to name a very few, most co-written with his lyricist Bernie Taupin). A multiple Grammy, Academy and Tony Award winner and a member of the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, the man born Reginald Dwight has always been a gifted prodigy in piano and composition. His 1973 masterpiece album, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, was recorded in two weeks, with songs written in the morning and sessions completed with the band that same afternoon!). He started off as a session musician (it's his piano you hear on The Hollies' smash “He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother.” However, he quickly widened his scope as a performer to include film scores, soundtracks (1971's Friends, 1994's The Lion King, 1999's The Muse, 2000's The Road to El Dorado and 2011's Gnomeo & Juliet), theatre (the 1997 Broadway version of The Lion King and 1999's Aida, both co-written with Tim Rice 2006's Billy Elliot The Musical and an upcoming Broadway adaptation of The Devil Wears Prada) and acting (1975's Tommy, 2014's Kingsman – The Secret Service and those funny Uber Eats commercials with Little Nas X). A GLOBAL BRAND In partnership with Furnish, a former advertising executive who has been with John since 1993, his business ventures have also flourished. While John established The Rocket Record Company in the 1970s, Furnish is a master tactician who has created a global company with a strategy that includes philanthropy, film, music and theatre. To say Furnish has played a vital role in elevating John’s career to new heights is an understatement. One of Furnish’s biggest roles is as the founder of Rocket Pictures with his husband. The Canadian filmmaker started out as the director of the 1997 Elton John documentary Tantrums & Tiaras and wrote and directed two documentary films for BBC’s Channel 4: Fame and Fashion: Inside Gucci – Sex and Fashion and Fame and Fashion: Inside Versace – Fame and Fashion. After serving as producer for the 1999 motion pictures Women Talking Dirty and 2006’s It’s A Boy Girl Thing, Rocket Pictures struck box office gold with the 2011 animated hit Gnomeo & Juliet, which earned $200 million worldwide. The 2019 Elton John biopic Rocketman not only grossed $195 million in worldwide box office receipts for Rocket Pictures, but star Taron Egerton also earned a Golden Globe for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy. On the songwriting front, the film also earned earned Best Original Song for “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” as well as Best Original Song at the Golden Globes and 25th Critics’ Choice Awards. Furnish is currently acting as a producer involved in the Netflix animated series Pearl (executive produced by the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle). Furnish is also largely acknowledged as the architect of John’s current live music swan song, the Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour, which Pollstar says has already grossed $358.6 million over 179 concerts. And, of course, there’s the couple’s enormous hearts: John and Furnish have been on the front lines with a long history of working with advocacy groups to battle the AIDS epidemic. In 1992, John established the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF), which has raised over $600 million to support HIV-related programs in 55 different countries. “I have lost many dear friends to this terrible disease,” John said on the EJAF website. “In the mid-1980s, I began channeling my grief into efforts to help raise money for the pioneering charitable organizations that formed during those dark, grim years to fund AIDS research and provide vital services to people with HIV/AIDS.” Furnish now serves as the foundation’s Chairman of their Board of Trustees and he travels around the world with the foundation to those who are at-risk or living with HIV. He also meets doctors, activists and community groups to raise attention about the epidemic and help eliminate prejudice and discrimination through education. On a corporate level, Furnish builds major partnerships to fund programming, and spearheads the yearly viewing party at the Academy Awards in Los Angeles as well as the annual An Enduring Vision gala, the White Tie & Tiara Ball and the Midsummer Party to raise funds for the cause. Furnish has also climbed Tanzania’s Mt. Kilimanjaro to raise funds and awareness, reaching the summit on World AIDS Day, and has met with influential political figures to inspire policy shifts and global financing to battle the AIDS epidemic. All this work has built the Elton John AIDS Foundation into the sixth largest independent AIDS non-profit fundraiser which has saved the lives of over five million of the most marginalized groups infected with HIV. The duo’s impact has helped raise the AIDS awareness of more than 100 million people around the world. John also continues to champion young artists and new music, both personally and as host of Apple Music’s Rocket Radio Hour. He says the fresh music he hears and the friendships he forges with fledgling musicians is the elixir of life for him. “When I love a record by someone new, I interview them on the show or I phone them up – even if they’re in Australia or in Europe,” John said. “It doesn’t matter, because it’s important to me to offer a hand of friendship and offer a hand of authenticity to what they’re doing.” John recalled the kindness shown to him by his peers when he performed the legendary gig at the Troubadour in L. A. where he became an overnight star. “When I first came to America, Neil Diamond, The Beach Boys, Leon Russell, The Band, George Harrison, they all got in touch with me. Leon Russell took me on tour and it made me feel very, very happy that they liked my music and it validated what I did. “So you must always try and pass those thoughts on to younger musicians because it helps them.” John said The Lockdown Sessions were rewarding in many ways. “A lot of friendships have come out of this and a lot of magic and a lot of happiness,” he gushed. “I loved doing this so much that it’s got – as a surprise – I’m playing on other people’s records. I was a session musician before I became Elton. I did the Little Nas X and Glen Campbell tracks in Studio 2 at Abbey Road, and 54 years prior to that I was in the same studio playing on the Hollies, ‘He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother.’ So, I’ve come full circle and I’m really loving what I’m doing. “I also learn something from each artist I’ve worked with that I normally wouldn’t have learned,” John explained. “From Stevie Nicks and Stevie Wonder; from Sam Lewis to Lil Nas X, I’ve learned something from each of them. And if you’re at my age – I’m 74 now – and you can still be learning from other musicians, that’s the greatest gift of all.” At age 74, after the flurry of activity with his new album on top of everything else, John certainly deserves some home time with Furnish and family. But, Charlie? The world owes you one.